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TeacherInduction:ExploringBeginning

TeacherMentorship

LaurieannM.Hellsten,MichelleP.Prytula,&
AltheaEbanks
UniversityofSaskatchewan

HollisLai
UniversityofAlberta

Induction programs, including mentorship, serve to bridge the transition from pre
service to inservice teaching. This study explored the mentorship experiences of
Saskatchewan beginning teachers. Analysis of interviews identified three themes:
assigned/unassigned mentors, engaged/disengaged mentors, and single/multiple
mentors. One moderating theme also emerged: the compatibility of the mentor and
beginning teacher. The combination of themes provides preliminary support for an
alternative model of mentoring based on learning communities and founded on the
conceptsofstrongandweaktiesandtheconstructivistmodelofknowledge.
KeyWords:theoreticalmodel,mentorrelationship,multiplementors,learningcom
munities
Les programmes dinsertion professionnelle, dont les programmes de mentorat, ser
vent faciliter la transition entre la formation initiale lenseignement et la prati
quedenseignement. Cette recherche porte sur les expriences de nouveaux ensei
gnants en Saskatchewan. Lanalyse des entrevues effectues a permis didentifier
trois thmes: mentors attitrs/non attitrs, mentors actifs/peu impliqus et mentor
unique/mentors multiples. Un autre thme entre galement en ligne de compte : la
compatibilitentrelementoretlenouvelenseignant.Lacombinaisondecesthmes
fournit un cadre prliminaire pour un nouveau modle de mentorat ax sur des
communautsdapprentissageetfondsurlesconceptsdelienstroitsetfaiblesetle
modleconstructivistedusavoir.
Mots cls: modle thorique, relation au mentor, mentors multiples, communauts
dapprentissage

CANADIANJOURNALOFEDUCATION32,4(2009):703733
2009CanadianSocietyfortheStudyofEducation/
Socitcanadiennepourltudedelducation

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Despite being well prepared and committed to teaching, beginning


teachers(BTs)areoftendisillusionedbytheirinitiationintotheteaching
profession (Le Maistre, 2000; McPherson, 2000). The process of teacher
inductionattemptstobridgethetransitionfrompreservicetoinservice
(Ingersoll&Smith,2004).Themostcommonandessentialcomponentof
teacher induction is mentorship (Carver & FeimanNemser, 2008; Cor
bell, Reiman, & Nietfeld, 2008; Ingersoll & Smith, 2004; Schmidt, 2008).
Designed to induce communication and development of skills among
BTs, mentorship provides appropriate support and resources. Previous
researchhasfoundthatmentorsupportpositivelyinfluencesBTsatisfac
tion in the teaching profession and workplace (Carter & Francis, 2001;
DarlingHammond,2003).Dependinguponjurisdiction,bothformaland
informalprofessionaldevelopmentandmentorshipprogramshavebeen
established,butfewmodelsofmentorshipexist.
TheprovinceofSaskatchewandoesnotcurrentlyregulateamanda
tory, formal teacher induction program. Mentorship policies, which are
decentralized to each school division, are usually implemented at the
school level at the discretion of the principal. To develop a theoretical
modelofmentorshipandtoexplaintheprocessofinductionforSaskat
chewanBTs,thisstudyexaminedmentorshipexperiencesfromthepers
pectiveof12SaskatchewanBTsintheirfirstclassroomteachingposition
followinggraduation.
LITERATUREREVIEW
Scholars have suggested various models of career development for
teachers (e.g., Berliner, 1988; Fuller & Brown, 1975). Stage theories pro
posethatteachersprogressthroughalinearcontinuumofdevelopmen
tal stages(e.g., Berliner,1994) with the first two years of teaching com
monlyreferredtoasthetimeofsurvival(Huberman,1989).Researchers
havesuggestedthattheexperiencesofBTsinthefirstyearsofteaching
have longterm implications for teaching effectiveness, job satisfaction,
and career length (Bartell, 2004). More recently, teaching career cycle
modelshaveextendedstagetheoriestobetterrepresentthedynamicand
diversenatureofBTexperiences(Fessler,1985;Huberman,1992;Steffy,
Wolfe,Pasch,&Enz,2000).CareercycletheoryrecognizesthatBTexper
iencesare highly contextual, influenced by the broader society,the cul

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ture of the teaching profession, the nature of a teachers work, school


related factors, and the communities in which the schools are located
(Lynn, 2005; Steffy et al., 2000). As these contexts change, so will indi
vidual teachers professional priorities, activities, and relationships
(Lynn,2005). For example, a good workplace, as characterized by com
petent administration, opportunities for professional development, and
strong professional learning communities (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003;
McNeil,Hood,Kurtz,Thousand,&Nevin,2006)canreduceuncertainty
andincreasetheopportunitiesforteacherstoachievesuccessandsatis
faction(Johnson&Birkeland,2003).
Many beginning teachers report an inability to cope, and describe
feeling isolated (Stanulis, Burrill, & Ames, 2007), as well as frustrated,
anxious,demoralized,andoverwhelmedbythedemandsoftheprofes
sion(ONeill,2004;Rogers&Babinski,1999;Schlichte,Yssel,&Merbler,
2005). Beginning teachers also report a lack of mentorship (Hebert &
Worthy, 2001). Teachers may perceive their first years of teaching as
negative because of the unrealistic expectations and beliefs teachers
themselveshaveaboutteaching(FeimanNemser,1983;Marso&Pigge,
1987), or alternately, because of the unrealistic expectations that school
administratorsplaceonBTs(Allen,2000;Romano,2008).ManyBTsenter
theirfirstyearofteachingwiththesameteachingloadandresponsibil
itiesasteacherswithmanyyearsofseniority(Angelle,2006).Beginning
teachers may also be given the most difficult classroom assignments
(Danielson,2002;Ganser,1996).Furthermore,BTsareoftenexpectedto
perform the same duties and responsibilities as experienced teachers
with the same level of expertise, efficiency, and efficacy as experienced
teachers(Wildman,Niles,Magliaro,&McLaughlin,1989).
InductionPrograms
Induction, a socialization process (Rippon & Martin, 2006), comprises
how a teaching community acculturates its new teachers (Wong, 2004;
Wong, Britton, & Ganser, 2005). According to the Ontario College of
Teachers,(OCT),plannedandsustainedsupportfornewteachers,inan
induction program, helps them during their transition from student to
fullfledgedprofessionalandisvitaltokeepingthemintheprofession
(n.d.). Induction programs vary as to their purpose (Ingersoll & Smith,

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2004)andassuch,thetypeofsupportBTsreceiveininductionprograms
varies widely (Davis & Higdon, 2008). Specific definitions of induction
usually refer to formal and highly structured staff development pro
grams that take place during the beginning years of a teachers career
(Wong, 2004; Wong et al., 2005). For example, teacher induction can be
defined as the support and direction provided to BTs in the first few
years of teaching (Bartlett, Johnson, Lopez, Sugarman, & Wilson, 2005).
However, induction may also involve fairly informal socialization
processesthatvaryfromschooltoschool(Bolman&Deal,1997).
Avarietyoforganizationsdeliverinductionprograms.ManyNorth
American BT induction programs, which are government mandated,
involveassignedmentorswiththeprogramdeliveredthroughauniver
sitystategoverningbodypartnership.Anexampleofsuchanapproach
is the province of Ontario (Cherubini, 2007), with its recently imple
mented New Teacher Induction Program (Ontario Ministry of Educa
tion,2008).
Although induction programs appear to improve teacher quality,
whichhasbeenshowntobeoneofthebestpredictorsofstudentsuccess
(Davis & Higdon, 2008), lack of funding (Carver & FeimanNemser,
2008)andanunderconceptualized,narrowviewofhowtosupportand
develop BTs (FeimanNemser, Carver, Schwille, & Yusko, 1999) often
cripple their implementation. Furthermore, research on the character,
quality,andeffects of induction programs and policies remainlimited
(Carver&FeimanNemser,2008,p.5).
Mentorship
Studiesofteacherinductiondefinementorshipasthementoringofnov
iceteachersbyexperiencedteachers(Ingersoll&Smith,2003).Morespe
cifically,mentoringhasbeendefinedas:

[C]reating an enduring and meaningful relationship with another person, with


thefocusonthequalityofthatrelationshipincludingfactorssuchasmutualre
spect, willingness to learn from each other, or the use of interpersonal skills.
Mentoringisdistinguishablefromotherretentionactivitiesbecauseoftheemph
asisonlearningingeneralandmutuallearninginparticular.(Salinitri,2005,p.
858)

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Otherresearchershaveidentifiedmentoringasasignificantfactorinin
creasing feelings of job satisfaction (Carter & Francis, 2001; Darling
Hammond, 2003; Evertson & Smithey, 2000) and reducing feelings of
isolation experienced by BTs (Schlichte et al., 2005). As with induction
programs, the characteristics and composition of mentorship programs
vary widely (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004). Furthermore, the roles, know
ledge, and skills associated with being a mentor range from informal
colleague to trained, knowledgeable advisor (Ontario College of Teach
ers,n.d.).
Numerousstudieshaveexaminedmentorshipprogramstodescribe
their effective characteristics (e.g., Algozzine, Gretes, Queen, & Cowan
Hathcock, 2007; Serpell, 2000). Results suggest that compatibility be
tweenamentorandBTbecomesanimportantfactorineffectivementor
ing(Russell&Adams,1997)asdoesthedesireonthepartofaBTfora
mentor to provide both instructional and emotional support (Odell &
Ferraro,1992).InherstudyofthesupportforBTsandtheirmentorsand
theirchallenges,Certo(2005)identifiedtheneedforadditionalresearch
documenting both positive and negative mentorship experiences, a call
thathasbeenansweredinthestudyreportedhere.
Despitemorethan500publishededucationormanagementjournal
articles focusing on mentorship during the years 19871997 (Russell &
Adams, 1997) and many more since that date, few established mentor
ship models exist. Many mentorship programs inadvertently draw on
the apprenticeship model (Hargreaves, 1988) where an expert teacher
passes on knowledge and skills to a protg. However, the apprentice
ship model has been criticized because it fails to recognize the existing
expertiseoftheprotg,encouragesdeferencetoamentorregardlessof
amentorsexpertise,encouragesconformationtoexistingpractices,and
prohibits the development of new approaches to teaching and learning
(Rippon & Martin, 2006). Anderson and Shannon (1988) proposed an
alternative model of educational mentorship. Their early model, based
onthepremisethatmentoringineducationwasfundamentallyanur
turing process (p. 40), defined the functions of mentoring as teaching,
sponsoring, encouraging, counseling, and befriending. Maynard and
Furlong (1995) conceptualized the role of teacher mentors as a three
stagedevelopmental process: (a) working asa collaborative teacher,(b)

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actingasinstructorthroughobservationandfeedback,and(c)position
ingoneselfasacoenquirer,promotingcriticalreflectiononteachingand
learning.FeimanNemser(2001)proposededucativementoring(p.17)
whichconsistsofemotionalsupport(i.e.,acomfortablerelationshipand
environmentfortheprotg)andprofessionalsupportbasedonunder
standing of how teachers learn. Spindler and Biott (2000) support an
adaptable view of mentorship where the relationship adjusts from
structuredsupporttoemergingcolleagueship(p.281).
Glazer and Hannafin (2006) introduced a model for teacher induc
tionthatfocusesonrelationshipsbetweenteachersintheirprofessional
learning development. Their model examines how to initiate collabora
tion and collegial support within a professional teaching community.
Elementsofcollaborationamongteachercolleaguesmayinvolvesharing
andevencreatinglearningactivities(Glazer&Hannafin,2006;McCotter,
2001).Oneimportantfindingisthatmentors,inadditiontotheirregular
workload, are expected to provide the emotional and developmental
supportBTsneed,butmaynotbewillingtodoso(Glazer&Hannafin,
2006). Although previous research suggests numerous benefits for both
mentorandprotgbasedoncollaborativeefforts,thesemodelsofmen
torship falsely assume that mentors would always be willing to aid BT
development.
Other models of mentorship have emerged to assist in the under
standing of the direct supervision of BTs. Ralph (2002) developed the
Contextual Supervision Model to assist supervisors and cooperating
teachers to mentor preservice teachers to develop their instructional
repertoire (p. 191) and to improve specific skills. Contextual Super
vision specifically addresses the need for supervisors to vary their role
accordingtotheirprotgsstageofdevelopment.Althoughusefulwith
inthecontextofpreservicesupervision,thismodelhaslimitedapplica
bilitywhenthedirectinternshipexperienceends.
Thedifficultyinestablishingamentorshipmodelmaybeduetothe
lack of research focusing on the design and process of mentorship, in
comparisontothemanystudiesthatexaminetheoutcomeofmentorship
programs (Bozeman & Feeney, 2007). It is imperative that mentorship
programs not only focus on the negative or positive outcomes of the
programsthemselvesbutalsoonthecomponentsofmentorship,espec

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ially the characteristics and quality of the mentor (Carver & Feiman
Nemser, 2008). The importance of establishinga mentorship model isa
crucialstepinprovidingastructuredmeanstocompareandinvestigate
theeffectivenessofcurrentmentorshipimplementations.
Thisstudyevolvedfromalargermixedmethodprogramofresearch
examiningtheexperiencesofBTsinSaskatchewan(Hellstenetal.,2008).
InthisstudyweinvestigatedmentorshipexperiencesofBTsintheirfirst
classroomteachingpositionfollowinggraduation.
StateofMentorshipinSaskatchewan
The Saskatchewan education system is comprised of a diverse popula
tion with a range of learning environments. The provinciallyfunded
educationsystemconsistsofapproximately174,000studentswithan18
per cent Aboriginal student population (Saskatchewan Learning, 2007).
Because the students are spread over 759 schools across the province
(SaskatchewanLearning),theMinistryofEducationhastobeflexiblein
devising a learning delivery system that is equally effective in remote
environments,ruralcommunities,andurbanareas.ThestateofBTmen
torship in Saskatchewan is unregulated. Compared to required teacher
mentorshipprogramssuchastheNewTeacherInductionProgram(On
tario Ministry of Education, 2008) regulated by the Ontario Ministry of
Education, the province of Saskatchewan lacks a provincewide teacher
induction mentorship program. The results from a survey of BTs in
SaskatchewanshowthatthemajorityofBTsidentifiedhavingamentor
asanimportantassetintheirfirstyearofteaching(Hellstenetal.,2007).
METHODOLOGY
Participants
Participantsinthisstudyincluded12purposivelyselectedBTswhowere
20052006 graduates of the University of Regina or the University of
Saskatchewan teacher education programs. We contacted all 20052006
education graduates employed as a teacher in some capacity in Saskat
chewan (e.g., classroom teacher, substitute teacher, etc.) and invited
them to participate in the study. All education graduates received an
initial questionnaire designed to aid researchers to select a maximum
variationsampleforthe12casestudies.Westratifiedcasestudypartici

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pantselectionbypreserviceteachereducationprogram(50%secondary
and 50% elementary trained), gender (20% male), Aboriginal heritage
(20%),andcurrentschoollocation(25%fromeachofrural,urban,north
ern, and band schools). Because Saskatchewan teacher education pro
grams graduate approximately 20 per cent First Nations teachers and
approximately 20 per cent male teachers, we selected the case study
sampletorepresenttheseproportions.
Final case study selection included five teachers with a secondary
education degree. Of these secondary teachers, four teachers were fe
males and one was male, representing both rural and northern Saskat
chewanlocations.Fourofthesecondaryteacherstaughtinapublicdivi
sionwithoneteacheremployedbyanother(e.g.,conseilscolaire,sep
arate) division. Another five participants received either an elementary
oramiddleeducationdegree.Thegenderrepresentationwasexactlythe
sameasforthesecondaryteachers.Twooftheteacherswereemployed
in a rural setting; three were employed in an urban school. Two of the
elementary/middleschoolteacherswereemployedinthepublicsystem;
three were employed in the separate system (i.e., publicallyfunded
Catholicsystem).Twoadditionalteachersreceivedtheirteachingdegree
from an Aboriginal Teacher Education Program in Saskatchewan. Of
these additional two teachers, the female teacher was employed in the
provincialpublicsysteminanorthernschool;themalewasemployedin
theprovincialpublicsysteminanurbanenvironment.
DataCollection
All BTs participated in a onehour interview in the spring of their first
yearintheteachingprofession.Weconductedinterviewsviatelephone
with the use of an audio recording device. The interview process was
scriptedwiththequestionsconstructedpriortotheinterview.Theques
tions used in the interview probed respondents in detail regarding 10
specificthemesincludingBTreflectionsabout(a)theiremploymentsitu
ation,(b)theirinitialteachingexperiences,and(c)theirpreparationand
supportduringtheirtransitiontoteaching.Thespecificquestionsrelated
to this study are included in Table 1. We employed transcription soft
ware and double verification processes to ensure the accuracy of the

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transcription,andallparticipantshadanopportunitytoaltertheirtran
scriptstoensurethattheyaccuratelyreflectedtheirexperiences.

Table1:InterviewQuestions
1

2
3
4

5
6

Canyoutellmeaboutthekindsofsupportyouhavereceivedasabe
ginningteacher?

Haveyouhadamentor?Whathasthatmentorshipexperiencelooked
like?
Whatkindsofsupporthaveotherpeopleintheschoolgiventoyou?

Have you received the support you felt you needed? Why (or why
not)?

Whatadditionalsupports,ifany,mighthavebeenhelpful?

Whereorwhowouldyougotonowifyouneededsupportsoradvice
aboutyourteaching?

ThematicAnalysis
Following the recommendations of Braun and Clarke (2006), we used
thematic analysis to identify repeated patterns of meaning from the ex
periencesofalltwelveBTsofvariousbackgroundswhilealsospeaking
to the differences in the set of interviews. Thematic analysis has been
recentlyembracedasaqualitativemethodinitsownright(Joffe&Yard
ley, 2004; Braun & Clarke, 2006) rather than just a process used with
qualitativeinformation(Boyatzis,1998).Weusedadeductiveapproach
to thematic analysis in that we were cognizant of the existingliterature
(Boyatzis). Despite our overt biases, we also worked to ensure that the
coding of the transcripts and the interpretations made from the codes
were data driven and constructed from the raw information con
tainedinthetranscribedresponsestotheinterviewquestions(Boyatzis,
pp.3031).Furthermore,tolimitpersonalbiasesandenhancethetrans

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ferabilityofthestudy,weemployedinvestigatortriangulation(Denzin,
1978)tointerpretthesamebodyofdata(Decrop,1999).Fourresearchers
withseparatebutcomplementarybackgroundsindependentlyreviewed
and coded the transcripts. We illuminated discrepancies and obtained
consensusfollowingdiscussion.
FINDINGS
Overall,mostBTswerecontentwiththeirfirstyearteachingexperiences
in their first year, yet faced challenges surrounding workload and feel
ingsofisolation.Theoverarchingthemetoemergefromthedatawasthe
diversityoftheBTexperienceinSaskatchewanwithrespecttomentor
ship.Furtherinvestigationintotheinterviewtranscriptsrevealeddiffer
ent themes in how BTs perceived mentors. Three major categories
emerged from the interviews: (a) whether the mentor was assigned to
therespondent;(b)whetherthementorwasengagedinthementorship
process; and (c) whether the BTs had single or multiple mentors. One
dominantmoderatingfactoralsoemerged:thecompatibilityofthemen
tor and BT. Despite the diversity in mentoring experiences including
both perceived positive and negative experiences, all BTs reported that
theyhadlearnedfromtheirmentorshipexperience.Forexample,despite
a perceived negative mentoring experience, one BT indicated that the
mentor demonstrated questionable teaching practices and thus the BT
learnedwhatnottodo.
AssignedVersusUnassignedMentors
The first theme to emerge was the difference between having an as
signedmentorversusanunassignedmentor.Theeffectivenessofanas
signedmentorforBTsinthisstudyappearedtobemoderatedinpartby
whether the BT believed the mentor had a compatible personality. The
followingexcerptprovidesanexampleofhowanassignedmentorand
beginningteacherwereabletoformaproductiveworkingrelationship:
Somymentor,whichissomethingthatthisschoolalsooffers,hasbeenreally
greatingivingmeadviceandjustbeingsomeonetokindofbounceideasofffor
that.

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Because the compatibility of mentors and BTs cannot be easily pre


dicted, theuse ofassigned mentors did not always result in favourable
experiences.ABTspeakingaboutbeingassignedamentorexplains:

My mentor right now she has about, I think,about four years of experience teaching
butIfeellikeshedoesnthavetheemotionalmaturityorexperiencethatIneedasafirst
yearteacher.Ineedsomebodythathasalotmoreexperiencetobeabletogivemeideasof
howtohandlesituationsorwhattodo.

But this BT, who did not believe the assigned mentor was particularly
helpful and who was frustrated by this overall mentorship experience,
stilldidnotperceivetheexperienceasdetrimental.Insteadofdismissing
theideaofmentorshipoutright,theexperiencepushedtheBTtoactively
seek out and identify an alternative, unassigned mentor with more ex
perience. Assignment of mentors may not work for all BTs and thus
some BTs may actively seek the help they need if the mentor to whom
theywereassignedwasunabletohelp.
In comparison, experiences of BTs who did not participateinafor
malmentorshipprogramwerequitedifferent.TheseBTswererequired
toestablishtheirownsupportstructureandtoseektheirownresources.
ThefollowingisanexampleofhowoneBTwholackedaformalmentor
shipprogrameffectivelyidentifiedunassignedmentors.

Idonthave,likeoneparticularmentorattheschoolherebutIguessthestaffissovery
helpful;anybodyIgotoismorethanhelpful.SoIkindof,andbeinginalldifferentgrade
levels,Ijustuse,dependingonwhatareaIhavequestionsabout,Igotothatteacherand
theyreallmorethanwillingtohelpaswellastheviceprincipalandtheprincipal.So,I
probablyhaveabouttenmentors.

This example demonstrates the positive outcome of a natural support


system within a school that did not participate in an assigned mentor
ship program. The support offered by the staff of this particular school
was sufficient to help the BT without a reliance on one single mentor.
Suchascenarioprovidesabeginningteacherwithmultiplerolemodels
to emulate. Furthermore, having multiple mentors may allow for more
comparisons,contrasts,andhigherlevelsofreflectiononthepartofthe
BT.

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Thebenefitsofnotassigningmentorsmayleadtomoreindependent
developmentforBTsandperhapswhen(andif)amentorisidentified,a
moregenuinementorshiprelationship.However,suchsituationsmaybe
beneficialonlywhenthereisasupportivestaffwithinaschoolandwhen
BTsareabletoidentifypotentialmentors.

IthinkIvecreatedmoreofarapportwithquiteafewofthedifferentteachers,sodepend
ingonwhatthesituationwas....IfitwasastudentthatIwashavingtroublewith,
IdgototheSpecialEdteacher.Ifitwasanotherstaffmember,Idgotothemortheprin
cipal.Thatsortofthing.

In addition, where formal mentorship programs existed, there ap


peared to be an expected structure and curricula to the mentorship ex
periences that were often lacking in informal mentorship experiences.
Thus,informalmentorshipexperiencesmaybeoflowerqualitythanthe
experiencesofBTsparticipatinginformalprograms.Althoughonepar
ticularBT was able toidentify two mentors and believed that the men
torshipactivitieswereextremelyhelpfultoherpersonaldevelopmentas
abeginningteacher,thequalityofthementorshipexperiencewasinre
trospect, quite poor. Her experience was limiting: I spent the entire
summerphotocopying[thecontentsof]theirfilingcabinets.
Thelackofanassignedmentormaybedetrimentaltothedevelop
mentofBTsiftheyareunabletoidentifythesupporttheyneed.Thelack
ofassignedand/orformalmentorshippromptedthefollowingreflection:

AtfirstIwasfeelingveryoverwhelmed.IdidntfeelthatIhadalotofsupportfrommy
administration.Butthatwasthewaythattheydealwiththings.Theydontreallyhavea
mentorship program here. Their philosophy is we dont want to tell new staff all that
muchbecauseitforcesthemtospeakwithotherstaffmemberstofindoutwhattheyneed
todo.

Similarly,oneBTstated:

No, I didnt have anything like that [speaking about a mentor]. Whatever I had was
whateverI,myself,reachedfor.Itwasntanythingthatwassetupthroughtheschoolor
thedivisionoranythinglikethat.IguessIhadapersonalmentor,Idontknowifthats
just another teacher in the school that I could visit with after school, just, you know,

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sometimeswhenyourereallyfrustrated,thingslikethat.Butitwasntsomebodythatwe
scheduledthateveryWednesdayafternoonwegottogetheroranythinglikethat.

ThisparticularBTwasalsooneoffewteacherstocommentontheper
ceptionthatmentoringwasonlyforthoseteacherswhowereexperienc
ing difficulties. The BT went on to say: I guess a mentor probably would
havebeennice.Butitwasntsomethingthat,Iguess,nooneeverthoughtthatI
needed.IguessnoonethoughtthatIeverlookedlikeIwasfrazzledeveryday.
EngagedVersusDisengagedMentors
Whetherornotamentorwasengagedintheconceptofmentorshipwas
evidentinthemannerofsupportprovidedtotheBT.Anexampleofan
engagedmentorwouldbesomeonepossessingtheabilitytobuildarela
tionshipbetweenthetwoteachersthatwasnotlimitedtoresourceshar
ing.Anexampleofsucharelationshipisdescribedbelow:

Imteachingherclassthisyearanditworkedperfectlybecausewehadthatbondandshe
trustedmeandlefteverything.Shedidnttakeonethingoutofthatclassroom.Sothat
made it easier for me as a firstyear teacher in the K to 6 system . . . she made me feel
reallywelcome.Shegraduatedmaybethreeyearsbeforemeandknewhowitwasgoing
intoanewschool...sowhenIarrivedformyinternshipshehadapresentthereforme
andletmeknowthatifIneededanythingshewouldbethere.Ohandshealsotaughtmy
sonandduringmypreinternshipIactuallyborrowedresourcesoffher.

The mentor in this example actively volunteered her time to induct the
BT into the teaching profession. The BT felt welcome to ask for help.
However, there was a definite history to the relationship between the
two colleagues thatspanned a varietyof roles. Perhaps thislevel ofac
tive engagement and the level of trust were unusually high. Engaged
mentorsalsoparticipatedinamorepassivemanner.

IcameintotheclassroomandmymentorhadgivenmeabunchofmaterialthatIcould
use and had lots of resources and ideas and suggestions and there are always people to
bounceideasoffwiththat.TheunfortunatepartofteachingphysicsisthatImtheonly
onesotherearentalotofpeoplewhoIcangotoandsay,wellwhatdoyoudoforthis?
Buttheboardhasalsobeenreallygoodandtheschoolitselfhasbeenreallygoodabout
encouragingfirstyearteacherstogotodifferentschoolsandobservingotherteachersin
ourteachingareas,whichissomethingthatIshouldprobablydobeforemyfirstyearis

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up.Sotheyhavesaid,ifyoutakeadaytogotoobservesomebodywhoteacheslikeyour
self,wellcoveryoursubandgeteverythingarrangedforthat.

In this instance, the mentor was not as inviting and personal as in the
previousexample.AlthoughtheBThadamentorwhowasnotskilledin
the subject that the BT taught, an alternative was offered for the BT to
acquiretheknowledgesheneededtoexcelinteachinginherownsubject
area.
EngagementofmentorsmaynotnecessarilybereflectedintheBTs
satisfaction. Although an incompatible relationship would surely
prompt disengagement from the mentor, getting along with a mentor
may not necessarily demonstrate an engaged mentor. One BTs mentor
was the viceprincipal. Although this BT had a compatible relationship
withthementor,thementorwasnotengagedinthementorshipexper
ience,promptingtheBTtofeellostandunsupported:

I dont have any other teachers to get the material from. But it would have been nice to
maybeknowifsomeoneelsetaughtEnglishinanotherschool.And,atthebeginningof
theyearIdidntknowanybody.

The BT positively adapted to this negative mentorship experience by


actively seeking out her peer group and finding sources of support
throughresourcesharingwithherpeers.

I didnt know I could do that, but then we had a congress in October and as I met new
teachersandIrealizedthatsomeofthemwereteachingthesamestuffthatIhadandthat
mighthavebeen67years,orsomethinglikethat,Ikindofusedthemasaresourcefor
booksandstufflikethat.

ThelevelofmentorengagementwasnotundertheBTscontrol.Aswas
demonstrated in our interviews, BTs appear to have their own adapta
tionstrategiestothetypeofmentorshiptheyreceive.Althoughconnec
tiontoanengagedmentorwouldlogicallyleadtoabetteroutcome,con
nectiontoadisengagedmentormaynotalwaysbedetrimentalbecause
BTsmayseetheflawsoftheirmentorsandseekalternativesorlearnto
speakoutwhensuchproblemsarise.

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SingleVersusMultipleMentors
Regardlessofwhethermentorswereassignedorunassigned,someBTs
observed that they were influenced primarily by one mentor on their
staff,whileothersnotedthatmorethanonementorimpactedtheirfirst
year experience. Such an experience had an effect on the BTs level of
engagement,potentiallyreducingthecloningeffectofasinglementorto
influenceteacherthinkingandpedagogy,aninfluenceoftenresultingin
activities such as copying resources in filing cabinets or finding discip
linetechniques.Thisengagementappearedtotakeplacewhenmentors
haddifferentapproachestotheirteaching,asdescribedbelow:

EverytimeIhaveaquestionaboutanything,theyarethefirsttwoIgotoanditsreally
greattoobecausetheyhaveverydifferentteachingstylesandsoItrytofinda balance
betweenthetwoofthemandobviouslymyown.Putalltogether,itsjustreallyinterest
ing to see how the three different classes, doing the same material and the same every
thingelsearedifferent.

Engagement from multiple mentors occurred in a deeper way for this


BT,whowasemployedintwoschools.Inoneschool,shewasinvolved
inalearningcommunityofteachers,focusedonastudentlearninggoal.
Intheother,therewasnolearningcommunity.Shenoticedadifference:

Wesatdownatthebeginningoftheyear,theprincipalsaidletsseeyoursmartgoaland
...nowImkindofcheckingmysmartgoal,WhereamI?Thenwesetupaninter
viewwhen wegotback,(weneededtoanswer) sohowdiditwork,wheredidyougo,
howdidyoudoit.Didyouchangeanything?Sowedoalotofthattherewheretheres
alotoftalkabout,(suchas)howdoesthisworkforyouandevenamongstthestaffthat
justhappensso,whatareyoudoinginyourclassroom,howsitgoing,whatareyou
doing?Intheotherschool,andalotofitisatimething,youknowthereisntatimein
whichthewholestaffissittingaroundthestafftableor,youknow,evenagoodportionof
thestaff.

Beingexposedtomorethanonementorprovidedexposuretodifferent
styles of teaching and different approaches, an experience that affected
the professional learning of one participant. For example, one BT was
assignedamentorwhowasverysimilarinageandexperience.Thisrela

718

LAURIEANNM.HELLSTENETAL

tionshipdidnotappeartostimulatelearningforthebeginningteacher.
Shethenfoundherselfanotherverydifferent,unassignedmentor:

IcurrentlyconfideinandtalktoateacherwhohasalmostfortyyearsexperienceandI
wouldpreferheronlybecause,andshedoesnteventeachinmyarea,onlybecauseshe
hasthatmuchexperienceandthatmuchemotionalmaturitythatIneed.

Fromthesecases,whetherthementorswereassignedorunassigned,
engagedordisengaged,theopportunitytobeexposedtomorethanone
mentor appeared to influence the BTs engagement and personal learn
ing. The BTs were engaged in inquiry and in making intellectual deci
sionsaboutthedifferentapproachestofindwhatworkedbestforthem.
DISCUSSION
Thematic analyses identified the following moderating themes: (a) en
gaged/ disengaged mentors, (b) assigned/unassigned mentors, and (c)
single/ multiple mentors. In this article, we have explored how these
themes identify areas that need considerable attention to improve the
teacher induction processes in Saskatchewan. The discussion of these
themes also creates a space for the consideration of the professional
learningcommunitymodelasaprocessforsuccessfulteacherinduction.
Previous research suggests that unwilling or uninterested mentors
areunlikelytoprovideeffectivementoring(Normore&Loughry,2006).
In a similar manner, disengaged mentors, even mentors who are unin
tentionally disengaged, are unlikely to be effective. Traditionally men
torshavebeenexpectedtobeengaged,butinreality,somementorsmay
be unwilling to take on this additional responsibility (Glazer & Han
nafin,2006).SimilartoChubbuck,Clift,Allard,&Quinlan(2001),oneBT
in our study found that because she appeared to be competent and in
control, others in the school forgot she was new, and did not initiate
mentorship relationships or provide support. Although the potential
mentorsmaynothaveperceivedaneedformentorshipinthiscase,po
tentialmentorsmayalsohavebeenreluctanttotakeontheresponsibil
ity.Thusmentorshipmodelssuchascontextualsupervisiondonoteven
comeintoplaybecausetheenvironmentdoesnotfacilitatesuchrelation
ships.

TEACHERINDUCTION

719

What is needed is an environment where a group of mentors sur


roundaninductee,ratherthanjustasinglementorassuggestedbythe
apprenticeshipmodel.Assumingthatonepersonhastheknowledgeto
inductanewcomermaycreateasituationwhereaBTdeferstothemen
torandfeelscompelledtobecomejustlikethementor.AllowingtheBT
to learn from a variety of mentors creates an opportunity for learning,
discernment, and dialogue. This situation is beneficial not only for the
BT,butalsofortheexperiencedteachersaswell.
A tradeoff occurs between the formality of a mentorship program
anditseffectiveness,especiallyiftheformalmentorshipprogramsfocus
isnotcentredonstudentlearning(Spindler&Biott,2000).Previousre
searchhasfoundthatBTswhodidnotparticipateinformalmentorship
programs found teaching to be a less desirable profession than those
whodidparticipate(HulingAustin&Murphy,1987).Incontrast,some
researchhassuggestedthatinformalmentorship,suchashavinganun
assigned mentor, tends to provide more psychosocial benefits when
compared to more formal relationships (Sosik & Lee, 2005). Perhaps,
then,lessstructuredmodelsneedtobeconsideredintheareaofteacher
induction. The fact that one participant perceived a very positive expe
rience as a result of experiencing a natural, unassigned, multimentor
environmentpointstotheideathattheissueisnotwhetheramentoris
assignedorunassigned,butperhaps,instead,whetheraparticipantisin
asingleversusamultiplementorenvironment.
OurstudydidnotidentifyaclearpreferenceonthebehalfoftheBT
for assigned/unassigned mentoring. Beginning teachers appeared to
learnregardlessofthetypeofmentorshiprelationshiptheyexperienced
evenwhentheypurposefullychosenottoengageinamentorshiprela
tionship. This lack of preference, however, must not be confused with
the perception that an unassigned mentor versus an assigned mentor
created no difference in the level of participant learning. Following an
unsuccessful mentorship experience, one BT in our study adopted a
closed door mindset and attempted to learn on her own a survival
techniquethatChubbucketal.(2001,p.374)argueisnotalwayseffective.
ItisalsopossiblethatBTsareunabletoaccuratelyjudgethequality
oftheirmentorshipexperiences.Beginningteachersmaybeunawareof
the potential for learning that effective mentorship and induction ap

720

LAURIEANNM.HELLSTENETAL

proachesoffer,andthusinaccuratelyjudgetheirownexperiencesasbe
ingofhigherqualitythantheywouldotherwisebe.OneBTinourstudy
believedthatherexperienceofhavingaccesstothefilingcabinetofher
mentor was extremely helpful to her personal development as a beginning
teacher.AsCarverandFeimanNemser,(2008)declare,Acomprehen
siveandeffectiveapproachtoinductionmustoffermorethanhelpfind
ingpaperforthecopymachine(p.5).
WeidentifiedthecompatibilitybetweenamentorandBTasamod
erating theme in our study. Previous research suggests that effective
mentorship requires a degree of compatibility between mentor and
protg(Russell&Adams,1997)toavoidpersonalityconflicts(Johnson
&Birkeland,2003).BecausetheprocessofmatchingBTswithmentorsis
consideredtobeveryimportantintraditionalmentoring,researchsug
geststhatforoptimaloutcomesBTsshouldbepairedwithmentorswho
teach the same subject(s) and/or grade(s) in the same school as the be
ginning teacher (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003;
Normore & Loughry, 2006). Unfortunately, BTs are seldom paired in
such a manner (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003) and it is unlikely that the
Saskatchewan context would readily allow for such optimal matching.
Partofthereasonforthelackofmatchingcouldbeattributedtothelack
ofaprovinciallymandated(formal)mentorshipprogramorthelocation
and size of a school. Because many BTs in Saskatchewan find employ
mentinruraland/ornorthernareasoftheprovince(Hellsten,Ebanks,&
Prytula,2008),theydonotalwayshaveaccesstoanotherteacherofthe
samegrade/subjectwithintheschoolorevenwithincloseproximity.In
addition,thecompatibilityofasinglementorandaBTappearstobees
sentialtothesuccessofthementorshipexperience.Attemptingtodevel
opsinglementorstoachievethissupportseemsuncertain,atbest.This
situationbegsthequestionastowhyasinglementorisevenconsidered
for a successful mentorship program, and again suggests the need to
consideralearningenvironmentwithmultiplemembersthatfocuseson
studentandteacherlearning,andthatlastslongerthanoneyear.
Despitethepopularityofinductionprogramsandmentoring,Levine
(2006) suggests that it is rare to find induction programs that are effec
tive.Partofthereasonbehindthisineffectivenessmaybethatthefocus
ofinductionvariesfromplacetoplace,andteacherinductionprograms

TEACHERINDUCTION

721

have historically focused on helping BTs feel more comfortable in a


schoolculture(Anderson&Shannon,1988;HulingAustin,1990).How
ever, feeling more comfortable does not automatically make BTs better
ormoreeffectiveteachers(CochraneSmith&Lytle,1999).Thus,thereis
a need to develop mentors who provide support not only on the rela
tionshipsideofthingsbutalsoforthelearningsideorthecomplexand
thoughtprovokingconversationsthatsurroundthepracticeofteaching
(Stanulisetal.,2007,p.144).
As previously stated, the traditional definition of mentorship is the
process of creating an enduring and meaningful relationship with
anotherperson,withthefocusonthequalityofthatrelationshipinclud
ingfactorssuchasmutualrespect,willingnesstolearnfromeachother,
or the use of interpersonal skills (Salinitri, 2005, p. 858). Despite this
understanding,severalparticipantsinourstudydescribedenrichingBT
experiencesthatoccurrednotbecauseofasinglementor,butbecauseof
morethanonementor.
Throughworkingwithmultiplelearners,orsociallearning,individ
ualsdeveloptieswithcolleagues,whichcanbeconsideredeitherstrong
or weak (Mitchell & Sackney, 2000). Strong ties are those that describe
close relationships with colleagues who have similar goals, and with
whomtheyworkclosely(compatiblerelationships).Thoserelationships
thatmakeupweaktiesarethosewithcolleagueswhoarelessconnected
(incompatible relationships); however,weak ties are those relationships
from which new information is often learned. Weak ties, often contro
versial,resultinconflictthatcancreateconditionswhereteachersmust
examine and reexamine their narratives, resulting in new professional
knowledge. The danger in having too many close ties is that work is
rarelychallenged,resultinginstagnationofprofessionalknowledge.On
the other hand, the danger in having too many weak ties is that work
mayremainisolatedandconflictmightbehigh.Aneducatorwithabal
anceinstrongandweaktieswouldthenhavethebestofbothworlds
stabilityandcomfort,aswellasconflictandchallenge.
In addition to an expanded opportunity to learn, having multiple
mentors who differ in teaching styles and methods requires BTs to
bridge the gap between theory and practice and also to bridge the gap
between different experienced teachers. The relationship also moves

722

LAURIEANNM.HELLSTENETAL

from a personal level of observation to an interpersonal interaction


among more than two members. The opportunity to learn is no longer
restrictedtoBTs.Ratherthanbeingisolatedintheirclassroomsoracting
only as role models, mentors are now engaged with other experienced
teachers.Atthispoint,authenticmentoringisdistinguishablebecauseof
theemphasisonlearningandmutuallearning(Salinitri,2005),indicating
thatboththementeeandthementorarelearning.Paralleltotheconcept
of interpersonal capacity building (Mitchell & Sackney, 2000), learning
takesplacewhenaBTengagesinconversation,reflection,andnewintel
lectual understanding. It is critical that these conversations occur be
tween people who are similar thinkers, resulting in relationships with
strong ties that affirm personal beliefs and practices, as well as with
peoplewhoareunlikethinkers,resultinginrelationshipswithweakties
that challenge beliefs and practices. The reflection that happens from
strong and weak ties opens new dialogue and professional conver
sations,andfromtheseconversations,learningtakesplace.
JohnsonandBirkeland(2003)statethatthislearninghasthepoten
tialtoexistintheworkplace,andthatsuchaworkplacecanreducethe
uncertaintyandincreasetheopportunitiesforteacherstoachievesuccess
and satisfaction. Such a model for effective mentorship already exists
through the learning community model, where a BT is inducted as a
member, parallel to all other teachers, and learns along with them
throughconversationsandreflections,focusedonstudentlearninggoals.
The learning community model helps to build a strong commitment to
professional learning for all staff members (Watkins, 2005) and reduces
manyoftheidentifiedbarrierstosuccessthroughtraditionalmentorship
programs,suchasengagementandcompatibilityissues,sothatmutual
learning takes place. The results from the interview transcripts provide
preliminary support for an alternative model of mentoring (figure 1)
based on learning communities founded on the concepts of strong and
weak ties (Mitchell & Sackney, 2000) and the constructivist model of
knowledge (Palmer, 1998). In this model, all learners are teaching and
learningtoeffectapositivechangeinstudentlearning.Nooneeducator
ismoreimportantthantheother,regardlessofwhatpositiontheperson
maybein,whetheradministrator,classroomteacher,mentor,ormentee.
Alleducatorsareconnectedtoeachotherthroughstrongandweakties

TEACHERINDUCTION

723

(indicatedbyboldandnarrowarrows).Again,strongtiesexistbetween
likethinkers,affirmingbeliefsandpractices,andweaktiesexistbetween
unlikethinkers,challengingbeliefsandpractices.Throughtheconstant
action of conversationsand reflection,learning takes place, both within
thestudent,andwithintheteachers.
McNeiletal.(2006)developedatheoryofmentorshipinwhichthe
inducting teacher progresses through five learning stages, beginning
withaninternalfocuswherehe/sheisisolatedanddependent,andpro
ceedingtoanexternalonewherehe/sheisacompetenteducator.Basing
themodelonthezoneofproximaldevelopment(Vygotsky,1978),over
time,BTsarebelievedtorecognizethemselvesaslegitimatemembersof
aschoolcommunityastheybuildmasteryinteachingskills,assisttheir
learners to become independent, and successfully collaborate with col
leagues(McNeiletal.,2006).McNeilsmodel,however,requiresthatthe
mentoringteacherestablishanindividualizedinductionplan,collabora
tionwithassignedmentorswhoaretrained,andacommunityoflearn
ers. In contrast, in the proposed model resulting from this study, the
centre of the model no longer represents a BT, but instead represents
learning as evidenced by both student learning outcomes and mentor
andBTlearning.Thealternativemodelofmentorshipalsoeliminatesthe
need for the mentoring teacher to develop an individualized plan, be
causeaBThasanopportunitytolearnfrommanydifferentteachers,and
isnotsubjecttooneteacherspaceorapproach.Similartothecentreofa
learning community, the centre of this model is student learning goals.
Thisfocuskeepsconversationsonteachingandlearning,andallowsfor
multiple perspectives to be shared, discussed, and learned. Sharing a
common goal also induces teacher engagement, and provides a bench
marktomeasuresuccess.

724

LAURIEANNM.HELLSTENETAL

Teacher
Teacher

Teach
er*

Teacher

Learn
ing

Teacher

Teach
er*

Teacher
Teacher

Figure1.AlternativemodelofmentorshipforSaskatchewan
(AdaptedfromPalmer,1998).

Several potential benefits occur from this model. The search for the
best matched mentor (i.e., subject/grade) is no longer required because
the BT (indicated by a * in the Figure) has, in effect, multiple mentors.
Multiplementors,consistingofnewandexperiencedteachers,providea
rangeofopportunitiestoshareexperiences(Algozzineetal.,2007).Mul

TEACHERINDUCTION

725

tiple mentors also reduce the potential for disengagement and remove
theresponsibilityofmentorshipfromoneindividual.Furthermore,mul
tiplementorsreducetheneedforassignedmentorshipandtakeadvan
tage of the positive effects of strong and weak ties (compatible and in
compatible relationships). Although personal and emotional support is
likely in such a community, intellectual interaction among more than
twomembersisalsofostered.
Toconclude,inthisstudywesuggestthatratherthancreatingand
implementing a provincewide, governmentmandated mentorship or
induction program, the mentorship of teachers could be developed
through an adaptation of the professional learning community model.
Based on the learning community model, the process revolves around
student learning and setting student learning goals. Mentorship, then,
occurs as a teacher learns in community with others how to achieve
higherstudentlearningoutcomes.Suchamentorshipmodelshouldin
itially be introduced to teacher candidates as part of their preservice
teachereducationprogramswithanaturalextensiontotheirworklifeas
BTs.

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Dr.LaurieannHellstenisanassociateprofessorintheDepartmentofEducational
Psychology and Special Education, College of Education, at the University of
Saskatchewan.Herresearchinterestsincludeappliedmeasurementandevalua
tionwithaspecificfocusoninstrumentdevelopmentandvalidationintheareas
ofeducationandhealth.

Dr. Michelle Prytula is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational


Administration, College of Education, at the University of Saskatchewan. Her
research interests include teacher learning, action research, the professional
learningcommunity,teacherinduction,andschoolimprovement.

Althea Ebanks is a Masters student in Measurement and Evaluation in the De


partment of Educational Psychology and Special Education, College of Educa
tion,attheUniversityofSaskatchewan.

HollisLai,M.Sc.isadoctoralstudentinAppliedMeasurement,Evaluation,and
CognitionintheDepartmentofDepartmentofEducationalPsychology,Faculty
ofEducationattheUniversityofAlberta

Contact information: Dr. LaurieAnn Hellsten, EPSE, College of Education,


University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 0X1.
<laurie.hellsten@usask>